Thousands of spectators are expected to turn out this weekend to watch the performance boats at the 16th annual Boyne Thunder Poker Run in Michigan.
The event kicks off Thursday with an unofficial fun run to Bay Harbor sponsored by UnReihl Sunsation followed by a pre-party in the evening.
The official event, which takes places on Friday and Saturday, is sold out with 120 boats slated to participate in the 150-mile poker run. Participants from around the country are expected for the event, which showcases Northern Michigan.
“This has turned into quite a spectator event,” said Bob Alger, chair of the Boyne Thunder Poker Run. “People really don’t get to see that often a collection of hardware and motors and that type of thing like they do when Boyne Thunder comes to town.”
Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats will be well represented at the event. Almost a quarter of the fleet will be Outerlimits boats, Alger said. Participants move into the docks starting at noon on Friday and that evening is the Stroll the Streets event. Organizers are also hosting a “Stereo Wars” at the marina.
“Every Friday night in Boyne City we have what they call Stroll the Streets but the one for Boyne Thunder is like Stroll the Street on steroids,” Alger said. “We close the streets down and bring boats and we have cars and motorcycles … it brings out more than boat enthusiasts. It brings out people who are interested in the motors, things like that.”
The poker run starts in Boyne City and the boats go to Charlevoix. From there the course goes south for card stops at Northport and Elk Rapids, then returns to the City of Charlevoix Marina for lunch. After lunch, there are card stops in Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor in Little Traverse Bay. The last card stop is at Horton Bay.
Alger said the segment after lunch is about 40 miles and provides spectacular views of upscale homes and local geography.
The poker run closes Saturday night with a dinner and auction at Veterans Park where the poker hands are revealed. The top poker hand receives $5,000 and $3,000 for second place. The third highest hand receives $1,500.
The Boyne Thunder Poker Run was founded 16 years ago to support the activities of the newly formed Boyne City Main Street Program. Alger said the goal of the program was to make downtown Boyne City more vibrant and preserve its historic character.
In addition to benefiting the Boyne City Main Street Program, proceeds go to nonprofits Camp Quality and Challenge Mountain. Camp Quality provides free camping opportunities to families who have children battling cancer. Challenge Mountain owns an old ski resort and the nonprofit provides outside, downhill activities for those that are physically handicapped.
Alger said the poker run has become a big part of the communities each July. “Areas where we weren’t really invited before, we kind of had to stay outside the harbor so to speak,” he said. “Now we’re welcome there, they bring in bleachers so that spectators can see the boats as they come through.”